John Maxfield Band
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John Maxfield Band

St. Louis, Missouri, United States | INDIE

St. Louis, Missouri, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Alternative




"The growth and maturation of his talents shine on "Holding Out," the second track on the set, a piano-based tune Joe Jackson could have released in his prime."

The Status Quo is John Maxfield's second release in less than a year's time, and a return to more straightforward alternative pop. It also features some of his best songwriting in that format, which has benefited for the creative leaps he took on 2008's Hullabalooga. The growth and maturation of his talents shine on "Holding Out," the second track on the set, a piano-based tune Joe Jackson could have released in his prime. "Ghost Train," which follows it, brings Maxfield closer to familiar territory of bluesy folk rock, and features some of his most confident vocals.

Like those of a number of singer-songwriters, Maxfield's vocals have been distinctive and, to a certain degree, an acquired taste. His voice has grown for the better, so now not only does he express a degree of range, but he augments his tone. In particular, the background vocals of "Ghost Train" feature a chestier and throatier Maxfield than I've heard on record to date. This dedication to craft is essential when working as artist, songwriter and producer. He is learning to tailor his vocalization to the songs, which is essential because his songwriting and arranging has continued to grow.

Maxfield's growth as a craftsman is evidenced b "Dead Silence," a downbeat, piano-driven waltz that hypnotically folks in on itself, which is followed by "Rag Doll," a riff-based, fast-paced retro-rock number that sounds as if it could have been plugged off an LP circa '66. Then the vintage, mid-'70s singer-songwriter homage (prominent horn section, piano solo and all), "Loverman," cues up. Genre shifts like these need some sort of continuity to make a cohesive listening experience. Thankfully, Maxfield's growth as a vocalist allows him to do these tracks justice and still evoke a singular thread uniting them, that being his much-improved vocal tone and delivery. When the vintage riffs return on "Wrong," Maxfield's guitar gets the same VIP treatment his voice has started to receive, making this song Guitar Hero-worthy for that reason.

The Status Quo s songs square dance with one another, sharing certain elements, while otheres have only Maxfield's voice as the common thread. That said, each one has a partner or relative song that seems to compliment it perfectly, somewhere else in the song cycle. This desegregation keeps the album lively and exciting. Case in point, the 6.7 track sequence is like shuffling CDs by Steely Dan and Cream, and then comes track 8, "No What?" that brings to mind Monster-era R.E.M. That makes album-opener "Dearly" and later track "Say You Love Me" especially nostalgic, because on these Maxfield returns to evoking the college rock music of the late '80s that predated '90s alternative and made a quasi-comeback as adult-alternative at the turn of the century.

So if we just stroll back on the genre-naming timeline, it makes perfect sense to hear "Don't Deny Me" a return to the same style Maxfield used on "Loveman," this time with a bit more of a Dylan feel. The closer, "Stuck in St. Louis," is a perfect example of how you take an acoustic guitar and create a melody pleasant enough to not need any other instrumentation beyond the vocal. In this case, it's a perfect closing song, because it's timeless and lived in, just another sign of a talented artist who's explored his gifts thoroughly and has now set his sights on mastering his craft. B+ | Willie E. Smith - Playback Magazine

"It's fun music to kick back and take in, whimsical and yet highly accomplished."

Life is full of surprises. I knew John Maxfield was a gifted musician, but I didn't know he was a one-man jazz ensemble, or so it appears on Hullabalooga. Well, if that's what was he out to prove on the more adventurous selections here, then I am convinced. There is some excellent vintage '70s lounge jazz on this record. It's fun music to kick back and take in, whimsical and yet highly accomplished. Three tracks deep and nary a guitar is found, supplanted by piano and horns dancing around in-the-pocket drumming and fluidly melodic bass playing. It's so laid back and effortless it feels just a little indulgent because, unlike more pedestrian lounge music, there's a vibrancy and energy that gives these lounge jazz tracks zest. That zest keeps it from sounding like dinner music, and makes it feel like a break-beat record cut live with a band pretending they were a DJ.

Then out of nowhere we get a Frank-Zappa-meets-Stevie-Wonder curveball by the name of "Back on the Bus." It's actually fun and a pretty cool groove, but after the smooth sophistication of "Theme to Hullabalooga," "Tumbling Down" and "I Miss Her," the unbridled eccentricities of some of the elements of "Back on the Bus" knock you off kilter. So when "Total Disaster" follows, it's even more surreal, 'cause it's an excellent and very melancholy tune, as energized as all the others but in a different way, feeling like the best kind of understated indie rock, not out of place on Death Cab for Cutie's former home, Barsuk Records.

Does that prepare you for "Lord Have Mercy," the country rock two-step that follows? Of course not, but it's an equally energetic performance. It's a very fun song, full of whimsy, some down-home slide guitar that the Rolling Stones forgot how to put down 25 years ago. The Stones definitely don't produce anything as blessed out and yet as lively as "Things Were Different," which slips yet another instrument to the mix, harmonica, in a setting I would not have expected, and yet it works perfectly. When the John Maxfield I'd expected all along emerges on "Black and Blue," all the aforementioned diversity undermines my appreciation for his ability to craft solid college rock tunes. The fact that, for the first time on Hullabalooga these kind of songs come in succession is almost a shock, but to close with "So Long," a nice, mellow rock tune, brings the point home that Maxfield is a master of his craft. A musician's musician, he can do most anything he wants, but at the end of the day he's a songwriter and that talent shines through no matter what idiom he embraces. To get a greater appreciation of his gift, you have to see how it translates live. B | Willie E. Smith - Playback Magazine

"Review at Vintage Vinyl on July 31, 2009"

Keeping the crowd amped up, the lead singer, John, talks to the audience between songs, either with jokes or a small background on the next piece they will play. All three of the band members complimented the others’ sound in a manner that kept the environment energized and upbeat. The crowd gradually grew larger as their performance went on, dragging in passer-bys from the street in front of the record shop. The audience bobbed their head with the beat and about a fourth of the group seemed to have already been familiar with the sound of the JOHN MAXFIELD BAND. - Hot Spot Vibe STL

"Homespun: John Maxfield, Hullabalooga"

Airy, open piano chords, brushed drums and organ accents usher in John Maxfield's latest record with the cocktail-jazz instrumental "Theme to Hullabalooga," a sly hint that the album may be more ambitious than most of its rock/pop contemporaries. In a way, it is different; the album relies more on the soft edges of piano jazz. And as it does on Joe Jackson's Night & Day, this trope pairs nicely with classic pop songcraft - but only when Maxfield lets pop structures trump the jazz flourishes. - The Riverfront Times

"Top Sellers at Area Record Stores: Week of July 27-August 2"

Every Monday (Tuesday this week -- sorry, Warped Tour), A to Z publishes the best-selling releases from area independent record stores from the preceding week. An asterisk after an album name indicates that the act is coming to town. And so without further ado:

Euclid Records
1. SON VOLT: American Central Dust
2. WILCO: Wilco (The Album)*
3. LEVON HELM: Electric Dirt
4. FIERY FURNACES: I'm Going Away
5. MATTHEW SWEET/SUSANNA HOFFS: Under the Covers, Vol. 2
8. ELVIS COSTELLO: Secret, Profane and Sugarcane
9. RHETT MILLER: Rhett Miller
10. STEVE EARLE: Townes

Vintage Vinyl
1. Better Than Ezra---Paper Empire
2. Fabolous---Loso's Way
3. Rusted Root---Stereo Rodeo
4. Maxwell---BLACKsummers'night
5. Michael Jackson---Thriller
6. Michael Jackson---Bad
7. Michael Jackson---Number Ones
8. Michael Jackson---Essential Michael Jackson
9. Regina Spektor---Far
10. Wilco---Wilco (The Album)*
11. Mos Def---Ecstatic
12. Bob Marley & The Wailers---Legend
13. Son Volt---American Central Dust
14. Michael Jackson---Dangerous
15. DJ CD---Hard On The Streets
16. Dead Weather---Horehound
17. John Maxfield---Status Quo
18. Chrisette Michele---Epiphany
19. Marquise Knox---Man Child
20. Eminem---Relapse
21. 24-Carat Black---Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday
22. Midnight---To Mene
23. Jonsi & Alex---Riceboy Sleeps
24. God Help The Girl---God Help The Girl
25. Portugal The Man---Satanic Satanist
- Riverfront Times


Yo! RFT Raps
Week of February 8, 2007
By Ben Westhoff
Published: February 7, 2007
To those who regularly seek out Yo! RFT Raps, cheers! (Perhaps you're only here because you got sidetracked searching for Savage Love, but no matter.) Sadly, this will be my last column, as I'm moving to New York next week.

Subject(s): local rappers
I'll miss a lot about St. Louis: the low cost of living, the Cardinals, the red bricks, my friends and my colleagues at the RFT. It will be especially hard to say goodbye to all the local rappers and producers I've met. Hip-hop is far and away the most vibrant component of the local music scene, in my opinion. For example: When local bands get ready to blow up, they move. With some exceptions, rap acts signed to major-label deals stay here.

I've got a special place in my heart (the pulmonary semilunar valve, to be precise) for the developing artists who stick with their craft despite long odds against ever signing a deal. Who needs a deal, anyway? Real musicians know that if they say something new (or say it in a new way), attention will follow.

My appreciation for these "on-the-grind" rappers increased in the past year, as I recorded an EP of my own. Working with producers John Maxfield and Jonathan Toth from Hoth, I've also learned a few things:

1) It's a buyer's market out there. St. Louis has a wealth of top-quality producers and recording studios. A small investment can buy you access to world-class sounds and equipment.

2) Rapping is effing difficult. Wonder why nobody raps in the shower? If you copy someone else's style, you sound foolish, but rapping in your own style makes you feel foolish.

3) Despite what you've heard, local rappers actually do support each other. The preponderance of cliques and crews ensures that everyone in town is tied together by just a degree or two of separation. And unlike many artistic disciplines, rappers form a real community — attending each others' shows, linking to each others' Web pages and mentioning "St. Louis" in every other stanza.

Finally, for those I've criticized, now's your chance for revenge. Check out my MySpace page,, and listen to my songs. Feel free to leave a comment (disparaging or otherwise), and I promise to post it. Or my name's not MC 401(k). — Ben Westhoff - Riverfront Times

"Elevator CD Review"

John Maxfield
Elevator (Tantrum Niche Records)
By Ben Westhoff
Published: June 8, 2005
Tapered-jeans-sporting John Maxfield dropped out of his Highland, Illinois, high school, moved to Kansas City, made an album, got a GED, and then came to St. Louis. Here he played open-mic nights at Cicero's, made a couple of albums and then was approached by an exec from a Sony Records affiliate who made him an offer he couldn't refuse. So the 22-year-old Maxfield made plans for an international tour and then, guess what, the money never materialized (Maxfield says the exec spent the money on a bail bondsman's services). So Sony never got Elevator, but you can (and should) on Maxfield's Tantrum Niche Records label. Maxfield plays all ten instruments on the two-disc album, which is uneven at times, flat in others (it was not mastered) and features clichéd lyrics. But Maxfield's guitar virtuosity never disappoints, and the hummalicious ballad "Bring You Down" is probably enough to get any straight chick to fall in love with him, tapered jeans or no.

- Riverfront Times

"Second Time Around"

Second Time Around
A look at the sophomore efforts from a few local bands
By Annie Zaleski
Published: October 19, 2005
The curse of the Best New Artist Grammy is a well-known phenomenon, wherein recipients of this award are thereby banished to obscurity (Arrested Development) or mediocrity (Men at Work -- OK, "Overkill" aside). Same thing with the Rookie of the Year in baseball, wherein a stellar first season begets a career bust (paging Pat Listach).

Subject(s): Jonathan Toth from Hoth, Gretchen Wilson, Living Things, Story of the Year
But what of the dreaded sophomore slump for musicians? Although it's nearly impossible to live up to successful debut discs -- just ask Hootie and the Blowfish -- producing a respectable, engaging follow-up isn't an impossible task. Or is it? Here are four local (three gone national) acts that recently released second albums -- and how they fare under scrutiny.

Story of the Year

Who: Few bands get as much flak from detractors as the band formerly known locally as Big Blue Monkey. But like 'em or loathe 'em, there's no underestimating the impact Story of the Year's 2003 debut, Page Avenue, had on modern-rock radio and teenage hearts, with its throat-searing screamo vocals and scissor-kicking punk-metal machinations.

Sophomore effort: In the Wake of Determination (Maverick)

The details: As its title suggests, the CD is much more confrontational, with hesher-worthy riffs and fist-pumping slogans replacing Avenue's generic guitar slashing. Consider Wake mall-emo all grown up with a driver's license, a bitchin' Camaro and the inclination to raise hell on Friday night.

Verdict? Unfortunately, Wake's songs often feel simplistic or repetitive, and there's not much original or memorable about the disc. If you're not a fan already, don't count on becoming one now.

Living Things

Who: After being put through the major-label wringer with their debut, Black Skies in Broad Daylight -- mergers and release delays plagued the process, and the CD is only available via import -- the Maryland Heights-bred brothers (noms de rock: Lillian, Eve and Bosh Berlin) found a kindred soul with, oddly enough, a label known for teenypoppers such as Britney.

Sophomore effort: Ahead of the Lions (Jive/Zomba)

The details: Conceived partly in their parents' basement here in town, the Steve Albini-recorded Lions manages to merge sludgy stoner metal, KSHE-influenced hard rockin' and Dandy Warhols-caliber swagger (check the fuzzed-out chords of "New Year" and Lillian's whispering, sassy vox on "God Made Hate").

Verdict? It won't change the world, but Lions is a genuine record that refuses to trend-hop, stoop to tired hipster influences or curry favor with blogs (although über-fan Ultragrrrl raves about 'em). In other words, it doesn't try to be anything but a kickass rock record -- which is rarer than you would think.

Gretchen Wilson

Who: Like countless country stars, the ex-bartender/cook from Pocahontas, Illinois, found her niche in Nashville, where she met future collaborator John Rich (of Big & Rich fame). The pair co-wrote "Redneck Woman," the insanely catchy "hoosier-and-proud!" centerpiece of her 2004 debut, Here for the Party. That unabashed celebration of Wilson's trashy roots resonated with mainstream country fans and music critics trolling for guilty pleasures.

Sophomore effort: All Jacked Up (Epic)

The details: More guitar-and-fiddle stomps laced through with pedal steel -- and, of course, the title track is the boozy sequel to "Redneck Woman" (one that lets fans know that G-Wils is still into slamming the brewskis at the local dive). More interesting is the Merle Haggard duet "Politically Uncorrect," though -- in which she proudly sticks up for Republican ideals without resorting to liberal-bashing (at least directly).

Verdict? The novelty-reeking cheesiness of a few tunes ("Skoal Ring," "Bud Wiser" -- har har) detracts from the fact that Up is a decent if paler version of Party. Perhaps in the future Wilson's songs should focus less on reducing her to a party girl and more on playing up her ferocious femininity.

Jonathan Toth from Hoth

Who: Fast-talking Frozen Food Section rapper/producer/renaissance man who released Brainwashing: The Art of Hip-Hopera back in 2002, who also fills his time by working as a roofer and serving as the CEO of the Frozen Food Foundation, a nonprofit focused on education and art (see "Bad 2 Tha Bone" in the December 8, 2004, issue of the RFT).

Sophomore effort: The Lovecycle (Frozen Food Section)

The details: Lovecycle reads like a who's who of St. Louis hip-hop, as it features production from Kenautis Smith, scratches by DJs Crucial and Trackstar, and vox help from Boris the Emcee and Christy Montana. But sax riffing courtesy of John Maxfield on the slow jam "Gorgesss" hammers home the fact that the album crams together sounds, samples and genres -- rock, trip-hop, b-boy rap, old-scho - Riverfront Times

"Beat Happenings"

Beat Happenings
Music news you can use
By Kristyn Pomranz
Published: September 28, 2005
Culture club: The biggest problem with VH1's I Love the '80s marathons is that they usually end sometime around 9 p.m. and are succeeded by reruns of 100 Most Metal Moments. But this Saturday, October 1, all '80s-philes can continue the loving -- as easy as if colors were like your dream -- with the DJ appearance of icon Boy George at Formula (1204 Washington Ave; 314-436-8676). And maybe, if you ask nicely enough, he'll tumble 4 ya.

Subject(s): Jonathan Toth from Hoth and Rob Getzschman, Autumn's Child, John Maxfield, Boy George
Goodnight, Johnny: With a poof of cigarette smoke and a flash of light off the cocktail glasses, John Maxfield will be going out with an elaborate bang. After touring solo for a year, he's making a production of his final gig at the Red Sea (6511 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-863-0099). On September 29 at 9 p.m., Maxfield will rock his usual guitar and harmonica, do songs to acoustic and electric loops, and incorporate piano (and whatever else suits his fancy) into a set. Enjoy the giveaways -- free cigs? crazy! -- before he goes-aways.

Patchouli breeze: My dad was damn excited when I told him about Autumn's Child's music, which features Native American flutes woven together with harp, cello, percussion and more. In fact, he was just as psyched that he'll (purely by chance) be flying in from Seattle on October 4 for Autumn's Child's ten-year anniversary/CD release party at the Sheldon (3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900). And, as a bonus, door prizes include free flutes!

This ain't no Lean Cuisine: If you haven't taken a stroll through the Frozen Foods Section, you're missing out on some goods. This St. Louis-based label/collective is much like its grocery namesake: not the most nutritious, but certainly the most delicious. Featuring hip-hop revolutionaries of all flavors, FFS is bound to release the most innovative sounds around. Get a taste at Frederick's (4454 Chippewa Street; 314-351-5711) on September 30, with the release of CDs by Jonathan Toth from Hoth and Rob Getzschman. Mmm, savory.

- Riverfront Times

"Elevator CD Review"

This album is good in ways that defy all possible logic. I always thought John was good, but both of these CDs are amazing, and the fact that John is playing every single instrument on the thing just adds so much to how cool it is to listen to this record and get inside the head of a musical genius. I highly reccomend getting this album while its only $9.99. It is worth every penny.


One Word Is True - 2011
(Smile, In Love Again, Worse or Better)

The Live Bootlegs Vol. 1 - 2010
(CD+DVD of live material)

The Status Quo - 2009
(Stuck In Saint Louis, Loverman, Rag Doll)

Hullabalooga - 2008
(Black and Blue, Lord Have Mercy, Ghost Train)

The Arrival - 2007
(No singles, instrumental album)

In Stereo - 2006
(No singles, instrumental album)

Elevator - 2005 (Town Fair, Bring You Down)

So Much Commotion - 2004
(Blue Violets, Just Enough, Sexual Tension, Daddy's Girl)

Loss Time Accident - 2003
(Waste, Shadows Follow You)

Beautiful Vs - 2002
(Cruel, Burden)



John Maxfield grew up in Highland, Illinois where he taught himself how to record, play guitar, piano, saxophone, and drums by reading books and avoiding "more important homework." He attended the Saint Louis Symphony Music School, where he met and studied with jazz legend Dwight Bosman. After school, John moved to Kansas City, MO to record albums with his brother Dale, who produced John's first album "Beautiful Vs" with Elders and Rainmakers guitarist Steve Phillips. John Maxfield has worked as a performing songwriter, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, score composer, recording engineer, and album producer for artists on the Tantrum Niche Records label, which he founded officially in 2002. He has recently taken his band and solo show on the road, released a popular video on YouTube called "Smile," and an amazingly eclectic new album called "One Word Is True."